Gulfport, MS – Christmas came early to a dedicated animal shelter located in the city of Gulfport, Mississippi. The “Humane Society of South Mississippi” recently participated in the ASPCA $100,000 Challenge and despite having a much smaller population then many other participating shelters they managed to secure several grants during the competition.
During the early stages of the challenge HSSM pulled off an amazing feat and secured first place in the qualifying heat community voting phase. Ninety five agencies from across the country took part in this portion of the contest which required each individual agency to get their community involved by encouraging them to vote daily for their favorite shelter. Only the top fifty agencies with the most votes moved on to the next round and HSSM was at the head of the pack.
Despite entering this next phase of the challenge as the only remaining agency in Mississippi and the first place winner of the previous stage many still considered them to be the underdog. HSSM staff, volunteers, and supporters refused to allow these doubts to enter their thoughts as they set the extraordinary goal of saving 2,300 lives in just ninety days. To help make this goal a reality they started off the first weekend of the saving lives portion of the challenge with an adopt-a-thon. Their mission for this kickoff event was to set the Guinness World Record for the most adoptions in a twenty four hour period. Hundreds of volunteers and staff members were on hand for this event and in the end 226 animals were adopted which is almost triple the number of adoptions set by the previous world book record holder.
This early success rallied this small Mississippi community together and at the end of the first month HSSM again led the competition with 309 more lives saved compared to August 2010 which secured them a $5,000 Fast Start Grant for their region. Over the next two months HSSM held several unique adoption events to raise awareness for the plight of homeless animals in their area. Just a few of the most notable events being a “Black & Gold Tail-Gate” party, “Fee Waived Wednesday” events, “Cruisin The Kennels” promotions, a very successful “PetSmart National Adoption Weekend” event, the first ever “Lollapetooza” festival on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and even a highly unusual but definitely memorable event where renowned UFC fighter and local MMA trainer Alan Belcher was caged for an entire day to help promote adoption. To help sponsor these events local business owners and community members contributed over $42,000 in donations, staff and volunteers worked endless long hours, and the community positively responded in a way that many would have thought impossible.
After months of dedication and a brief post challenge waiting period the challenge winners were finally announced and it was revealed that “Austin Pets Alive” of Austin, Texas was awarded the first place $100,000 grant for having the highest increase in the number of lives saved when compared to the number of lives saved during the same three month period the year before. The “Humane Society of South Mississippi” saved only fifteen less lives then the first place winner which earned them second place and a $25,000 grant. HSSM was also awarded an additional $20,000 grant for saving the most lives in the southeast region and a $1,000 grant for placing in the ASPCA photo challenge. In total HSSM managed to secure four different grants during the entire challenge for a total of $51,000 but even more important is the fact that they managed to unite their small Mississippi community together to help save a total of 2,183 lives.